Manhattan Cocktail Recipe & Variations (Perfect Manhattan, Little Italy)

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Why stop at one Manhattan cocktail recipe when you can have three? We love a classic Manhattan, but we love two of the slightly more bitter variations even more: the Perfect Manhattan and the Little Italy. See all our classic cocktails here.

Coupe glass on a white background with a golden brown cocktail and two skewered luxardo cherries for a classic Manhattan cocktail recipe

Why we love this trio of recipes

I wasn’t born a whiskey lover. Even as gin began to feel like a natural part of the world in my early 20s, whiskey remained mysterious and always felt like it was meant for someone else. Or someone else’s dad. That feeling persisted for over a decade.

Well. I was wrong. If you’re here, you probably already know I was wrong.

These days I’m perfectly happy to sip on two fingers, neat. But the Manhattan makes whiskey loving so easy. Whether you make it with rye or bourbon, it’s got a little of everything: warmth, sweetness, a touch of bitterness. It’s at the top of the classic cocktails list for a reason.

We tend to shy away from too much sweetness in cocktails (and even in baked goods, for that matter). So the Perfect Manhattan — made with half sweet vermouth, half dry — feels even more balanced than the original. And the Little Italy — which swaps in a splash of Cynar for the bitters — is our favorite version of all.

What’s in a Manhattan?

Regardless of which variation you choose, this cocktail needs only a few ingredients, all of which are easy to keep on hand. You’ll need:

Classic Manhattan cocktail recipe

  • Bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Sweet vermouth (rosso)
  • Angostura bitters
  • Luxardo cherries to garnish

Perfect Manhattan

  • Rye whiskey
  • Sweet vermouth (rosso)
  • Dry vermouth
  • Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist to garnish

Little Italy

  • Rye whiskey (but…shhh…we sometimes use bourbon because we like it)
  • Sweet vermouth (rosso)
  • Cynar
  • Luxardo cherries to garnish

What kind of vermouth to use

For the sweet vermouth in a Manhattan (and all its variations), we really like Carpano Antica. It’s a little pricier than some other vermouths, but it’s well worth it. Hints of vanilla, citrus, and warming spices make all the difference.

Collage of steps to make a Manhattan

How to make a Manhattan

A Manhattan is a stirred cocktail. Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  • Pour in rye or bourbon and vermouth.
  • Add two dashes of bitters.
  • Stir until glass is cold.
  • Strain into a coupe glass.
  • Garnish with Luxardo cherries and serve.

How to make a Perfect Manhattan

  • Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  • Pour in rye, sweet vermouth, and dry vermouth.
  • Add two dashes of bitters.
  • Stir until glass is cold.
  • Strain into a coupe glass.
  • Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.

How to make a Little Italy

  • Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  • Pour in rye.
  • Pour in sweet vermouth.
  • Pour in Cynar.
  • Stir until glass is cold.
  • Strain into a coupe glass.
  • Garnish with Luxardo cherries and serve.

The history of the Manhattan

So, even compared to some other classic cocktails dating back to the turn of the last century, the precise history of the Manhattan cocktail recipe is not super clear. It’s very likely to have originated at New York’s Manhattan Club around 1880. Beyond that, most of what we think we know is mythology. (source)

Personally, we’re just glad it exists.

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to our email updates, and follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe and Variations (Perfect Manhattan, Little Italy)

Learn to make three variations on this classic cocktail: A Manhattan, a Perfect Manhattan, and a Little Italy

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Serves 1

Ingredients

For a Manhattan

  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth (we like Carpano Antica)
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • 2 Luxardo cherries to garnish

For a Perfect Manhattan

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist to garnish

For a Little Italy

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey (psst...we sometimes use bourbon because we like it)
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce Cynar
  • 2 Luxardo cherries to garnish

Directions

  1. Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Pour in cocktail ingredients except garnish and stir. Strain into a coupe glass, garnish, and serve.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 200

Did you make this recipe?

We'd love to see! Tag us on Instagram at @umamgirl. We'll reshare our favorites.

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to our email updates, and follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.

Classic Cocktails

These are a few of our favorite classic cocktails. Stock your bar with a few simple ingredients, and you're ready to sip.